August 2009

In spring 2009, hundreds of schools shut down after being directed to close for at least seven days if even one student or teacher tested positive for the H1N1 flu (commonly called swine flu). New recommendations for parents issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aim to minimize school closures while preventing the spread of flu, including the H1N1 flu.

H1N1 flu is often referred to as swine flu because the virus that causes it is similar to one found in pigs. However, the H1N1 virus is also similar to other flu viruses found in birds and humans, and it cannot be contracted through eating or handling pork products.

Get Smart About Antibiotics

The CDC recommends keeping a child who has flu-like symptoms home from school until at least 24 hours have passed with no fever. The no-fever rule should be determined without the use of fever-reducing medications. Additional H1N1 flu guidelines and action steps for parents are available on the CDC’s website.

The agency is carefully monitoring reported cases of H1N1. If the situation changes, the CDC may revise its recommendations. Additionally, local school officials in conjunction with the health department may decide to close school based on the severity of an outbreak at that school.

School closures don’t necessarily mean a break from schoolwork, however. Some schools may send students home with work or provide lessons online or by telephone. Parents can help kids keep up by having school supplies on hand and being available to answer questions about assignments.

To prepare for possible school closures, keep a supply of educational activities at home for kids, such as books, games, or DVDs. You may also want to bookmark educational websites, such as these government sites:

  • Body and Mind (CDC)—helps children understand how the immune system fights the flu and other illnesses. It features animated superheroes (the Immune Platoon) who defend the body against disease and infection.
  • Smithsonian Education—offers access to more than1,700 resources by topic. Interactive quizzes lead children on explorations through the Smithsonian Institution’s collections; online games and downloadable activity pages engage children of all ages.
Journalist Patti Ghezzi covered education and schools for 10 years for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She lives in Avondale Estates, Ga., with her family, which includes husband Jason, daughter Celia, and geriatric mutt Albany.